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The ney is an end-blown flute
End-blown flute
The end-blown flute or rim-blown flute is a keyless woodwind instrument played by directing an airstream against the sharp edge of the upper end of a tube. Unlike a recorder or tin whistle, there isn't a ducted flue voicing, also known as a fipple. Most rim-blown flutes are "oblique" flutes, being...

 that figures prominently in Middle Eastern music. In some of these musical traditions, it is the only wind instrument used. It is a very ancient instrument, with depictions of ney players appearing in wall paintings in the Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian pyramids and actual neys being found in the excavations at Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

. This indicates that the ney has been played continuously for 4,500–5,000 years, making it one of the oldest musical instruments still in use. It is a forerunner of the modern flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...


The ney consists of a piece of hollow cane or reed
Phragmites, the Common reed, is a large perennial grass found in wetlands throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Phragmites australis is sometimes regarded as the sole species of the genus Phragmites, though some botanists divide Phragmites australis into three or four species...

 with five or six finger holes and one thumb hole. Modern neys may be made of metal
A metal , is an element, compound, or alloy that is a good conductor of both electricity and heat. Metals are usually malleable and shiny, that is they reflect most of incident light...

 or plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

 tubing instead. The pitch
Pitch (music)
Pitch is an auditory perceptual property that allows the ordering of sounds on a frequency-related scale.Pitches are compared as "higher" and "lower" in the sense associated with musical melodies,...

 of the ney varies depending on the region and the finger arrangement. A highly skilled ney player can reach more than three octave
In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with half or double its frequency. The octave relationship is a natural phenomenon that has been referred to as the "basic miracle of music", the use of which is "common in most musical systems"...

s, though it is more common to have several "helper" neys to cover different pitch ranges or to facilitate playing technical passages in other maqamat
Maquamat may have the following meanings.*Plural for Magam*Plural for Maqama*Maqamat Badi' az-Zaman al-Hamadhani, Arabic collection of stories*Maqamat al-Hariri, Arabic collection of stories...


In Romanian, the word nai is also applied to a curved Pan flute
Pan flute
The pan flute or pan pipe is an ancient musical instrument based on the principle of the closed tube, consisting usually of five or more pipes of gradually increasing length...



The Turkish and Arab ney may have 7 holes. The typical Persian ney is held with two hands and has 6 holes, one of which is on the back.

Each hole has a range of a semitone
A semitone, also called a half step or a half tone, is the smallest musical interval commonly used in Western tonal music, and it is considered the most dissonant when sounded harmonically....

, although microtones (and broader pitch inflections) are achieved via partial hole-covering, changes of embouchure
The embouchure is the use of facial muscles and the shaping of the lips to the mouthpiece of woodwind instruments or the mouthpiece of the brass instruments.The word is of French origin and is related to the root bouche , 'mouth'....

, or positioning of the instrument. Microtonal inflection is very common and crucial to various traditions of taqsim
Taqsim is the name of a melodic improvisation style that could be metric or non-metric, which usually precedes a composition in Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and other Middle Eastern music. The taqsim is usually performed by a solo instrument, yet sometimes the soloist can be backed by a percussionist...


Neys are constructed in various keys. In the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 system, there are 7 common ranges: the longest and lowest-pitched is the Rast which is roughly equivalent to C in the Western equal temperament
Equal temperament
An equal temperament is a musical temperament, or a system of tuning, in which every pair of adjacent notes has an identical frequency ratio. As pitch is perceived roughly as the logarithm of frequency, this means that the perceived "distance" from every note to its nearest neighbor is the same for...

 system, followed by the Dukah in D, the Busalik in E, the Jaharka in F, the Nawa in G, the Hussayni in A, and the Ajam in B (or Bb). Advanced players will typically own a set of several ney in various keys, although it is possible (albeit difficult) to play fully chromatically on any instrument. A slight exception to this rule is found in the extreme lowest range of the instrument, where the fingering becomes quite complex and the transition from the first octave (fundamental
Fundamental may refer to:* Foundation of reality* Fundamental frequency, as in music or phonetics, often referred to as simply a "fundamental"...

 pitches) to the second is rather awkward.

In the Arab world the ney is traditionally used in pastoral areas, showing a preference for smaller neys with higher pitches. In general, lowered pitched instruments are used in scholastic and religious environment. Though in the Sufi tradition lower registers are studied and played.

The Turks use even longer neys reflecting a preference for graver sounds, an imprint of the Sufi setting in which the ney was studied.

Kargı Düdük

Gargy-tuyduk (Karghy tuiduk) this is a long reed flute whose origin, according to legend, is connected with Alexander of Macedonia, and a similar instrument existed in ancient Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Kargı in Turkish means reed (Arundo donax). The sound of the gargy-tuyduk has much in common with the two-voiced kargyra. During the playing of the gargy-tuyduk the melody is clearly heard, while the lower droning sound is barely audible. The allay epic songs have been accurately described by the Turkologist N. Baskakov who divides them into three main types:
  • a) Kutilep kayla, in which the second sound is a light drone.
  • b) Sygyrtzip kayla, with a second whistling sound like the sound of a flute.
  • c) Kargyrlap kayla, in which the second sound can be defined as hissing. The sound of the Turkmen gargy-tuyduk is most like the Altay Kargyrkip kayla. The garg-tuyduk can have six finger holes and a length of 780 mm or five finger holes and a length of 550 mm. The range of the garg-tuyduk includes three registers:
  • 1) The lowest register - "non-working" - is not used during the playing of a melody.
  • 2) The same as on the "non-working" register but an octave higher.
  • 3) High register from mi of the second octave to ti.


The Tsuur, also known as choor, is an end-blown flute
End-blown flute
The end-blown flute or rim-blown flute is a keyless woodwind instrument played by directing an airstream against the sharp edge of the upper end of a tube. Unlike a recorder or tin whistle, there isn't a ducted flue voicing, also known as a fipple. Most rim-blown flutes are "oblique" flutes, being...

 that is found in western Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

. It is mainly used by the Altai-Uriangkhai people, although other yastans like the Kazakhs and the Tuvans are known to play them or have played them.

There are only three holes to finger. The blowing technique utilises the teeth, tongue and lips in the same way as Ney in Classical Persian music. The Tsuur is usually immersed in water before playing in order to seal and leaks in the wood.
The melodies that are played on the Tsuur are usually imitations of the sound of water, animal cries and birdsongs as heard by shepherds whilst on the steppes or the mountain slopes of the Altai. One of the melodies, “The flow of the River Eev” as was said before is the river where the sound of khöömii was mythically supposed to have originated.
The Uriangkhai called the Tsuur the “Father of Music”. A three-holed pipe was in use in Mongolia in the 18th century and was believed to possess the magical properties of bringing Lamb’s bones back to life. In the Jangar epic of the 14th century the Tsuur is said to have had a voice like a swan. This reference may also be indirectly a very early reference to khöömii as the singing style sung with the Tsuur is Khailakh.

The Pamiri Nay

The Pamiri nay is a transverse flute made of wood or, in Eastern Badakhshan
Badakhshan is an historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan. The name is retained in Badakhshan Province which is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan, in the far northeast of Afghanistan, and contains the Wakhan Corridor...

, eagle bone. Although the name is similar to the Arabic end-blown nay, it might well be that this side-blown flute is more related to Chinese flutes such as the dizi, perhaps through a Mongol link . It is used for solo melodies as well as with orchestras and for vocal accompaniment. One of the main uses of the nay is for the most original form of the traditional performance ‘falaki’. These are brief melodic sessions which can express complaints against destiny, the injustice of heaven or exile to distant places, and sentiments such as the sorrow of a mother separated from her daughter, the sorrow of a lover torn from her/his beloved, etc.

See also

  • Ney (Turkish)
    Ney (Turkish)
    The Turkish ney reed flute, together with the Turkish tanbur lute and Turkish kemençe fiddle are considered the most typical instruments of Classical Turkish music. The ney also plays a primary role in the music of the Mevlevi Sufi rites ....

  • Kawala
    The kāwālā is an end-blown cane flute used in Arabic music. It is similar to the ney but has six finger holes, while the ney has seven . The kawala comes in up to nine different sizes, according to the maqam....

    , a similar instrument used in Arabic music
  • Kaval
    The kaval is a chromatic end-blown flute traditionally played throughout Azerbaijan, Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, southern Serbia , northern Greece , Romania , and Armenia...

     , a similar instrument in Azerbaijan, Turkey, Macedonia and Bulgaria
  • Persian traditional music
  • Arabic Music
  • Music of Iran
    Music of Iran
    The music of Iran has thousands of years of history, as seen in the archeological documents of Elam, one of the earliest world cultures,which was located in southwestern Iran...

  • Music of Turkey
    Music of Turkey
    The music of Turkey includes diverse elements ranging from Central Asian folk music and has many copies and references of Byzantine music, Greek music, Ottoman music, Persian music, Balkan music, as well as more modern European and American popular music influences...

  • Washint
    The washint is an end-blown wooden flute originally used by the Amhara people in Ethiopia. Traditionally, Amharic musicians would pass on their oral history through song accompanied by the washint as well as the krar, a six stringed lyre, and the masenqo, a one string fiddle..- Construction and...

  • Dilli Ney
    Tin whistle
    The tin whistle, also called the penny whistle, English Flageolet, Scottish penny whistle, Tin Flageolet, Irish whistle and Clarke London Flageolet is a simple six-holed woodwind instrument. It is an end blown fipple flute, putting it in the same category as the recorder, American Indian flute, and...

  • Karghy tuiduk, a similar instrument in Turkmenistan
  • Choor
    The choor is a type of end-blown flute of varying lengths, with 3-5 holes made with reed or wood. Common among Inner Asian pastoralists, this instrument is also known as tsuur , chuur , Sybyzgy and kurai ....

External links